If you are one of those folks who believes that life after fifty is straight downhill from here… You. Are. Wrong.
And that is terrific news.
Yesterday I got a message from this fellow Medium peep whose comments remind me of why I do this stuff.
This “stuff” meaning writing about aging vibrantly, and how the conventional wisdom about age isn’t wisdom at all.
It’s stupid, ignorant and in every way shape and form a monumental LIE.
To that, if I may, here’s what Steve had to say about a recent story I published in In Fitness and Health this week:
I’m MUCH stronger now, at 77, than I’ve ever been in my life. In the last 5 months I’ve put on 7kgs of muscle, not fat, and can now do 30 proper pushups non-stop. It’s now accepted that the ability to do pushups is as good an indication of cardio health, as BMI. Anything over 10 is considered to be fine. I doubt that many 77 year-olds could do 30, and I’m still progressing. 5 months ago I couldn’t do even one proper pushup. There’s a very widely held belief that it’s not possible to gain muscle or get stronger at anything like my age. It’s total nonsense, but it does take hard work and determination.
The other thing I’ve disproved is the need to eat like a horse. I still only eat one proper meal a day, at 3pm, but I’ve strongly upped the protein with 3 supa-protein shakes during the day, and another 2 during the night. By supa-protein I mean WPI plus added Leucine + Taurine + Beta-analine + Creatine + Citrulline. (author bolded)
At five am today for the second time this week I was standing in line in the biting fog, the last of what we call “blue days” here in Eugene (sunny, that is), waiting to go in and pound the iron. I’m already back up to and nearly past where I was a few months ago, my body eager and raring for hard work. It always is once I push past the sedentary-habit-blues, which so many of us are suffering right now.
While I might take issue with the BMI piece that Steve mentions, which is still widely used but has also has been disproven (but OH so helpful for insurance companies to raise your rates even if you are intensely healthy), Steve’s comments for me underscore the great truism that what we are willing to work for with our bodies, we are likely to get.
He’s right. Not many 77-yo guys can do even thirty men’s pushups. To that, and those of you who read me know what’s coming, today, as I am rehabbing my poor busted middle finger, I only did eighty men’s pushups. I really want to get to two hundred some day. First, because it’s hard, second, because it’s fun.
Being strong at 68 is FUN.
Two days ago I was punching out sixty in a row, and when I looked up some guy had stopped dead cold in the middle of his sit ups to watch me. Look, I’m not in the market to be a spectacle, but an old broad punching out a set of sixty pushups and making it look like child’s play IS a spectacle.
For me sixty in a row is indeed child’s play. I only had to stop ‘cuz my fractured finger hurt.
Medium writer Jeanette C. Espinoza also penned me a very kind note, much to the same effect. She’s fifty-one, and she said she’d begun to buy into the bullshit that it’s all downhill after fifty herself. However, she’s also found that the harder she works (and I am paraphrasing here) the easier it gets, the more her body responds, and she can keep up with her 28-year-old.
There is NOTHING but NOTHING so powerful, so intense, so rejuvenating as putting in a bit of regular work, suffering through the inevitable first week or so of holy shit where have you been messages your body sends you, and reaping the pleasure of building strength. Balance. Body confidence.
It is far less an issue of body beautiful, particularly as we wave a (fond? maybe) goodbye to our youthful forms, than one of feeling very much at the helm of the body that will carry us forward into the increasingly uncertain waters of our aging futures.
I regularly receive notes like this, and I love to highlight these stories if for no other reason that I delight in sharing what other folks do and do well. Their lives are testament to what is possible, rather than the unfortunate habit of far too many wallowing in the I’m Too Old For This Shit, made so famous by the inimitable Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. To that:
That phrase has been co-opted into the vernacular as any excuse to avoid self care, discipline, consistently good fuel instead of the foolhardy crap Big Food peddles as edibles.
I can’t speak for anyone else but the only shit I’m too old for is this bullshit about being too old for this shit.
Most of what is likely best for you and me is green or pretty colorful and I’m not talking Skittles. I just came home from the local Kroger store with a huge bag full of orange, yellow and red sweet peppers. THAT is good food. Those sliced up to dip into some hummus is what I call a great snack. Why? First, what Steve said about protein, above, and this:
I have to be mindful of how much I have because my body makes oxalate kidney stones, but compare a bit of hummus and vitamin-rich peppers to a Snickers bar:
I used to pound down a super-sized Snickers after every workout years ago. Not now. It isn’t just that I can’t have chocolate and all the other crap that’s in my favorite bar. It’s that as I age, I can no longer afford to insult my body with stuff that doesn’t serve. Perhaps, in this particular case, I am indeed too old for THIS shit, which is shit food.
My buddy Rosennab just turned 58; she also can punch out a hundred men’s pushups. She also loves to crank hard iron and push herself. She’s got the muscular curves to prove it. And while some of the prices we now pay for the lives we’ve lived- and this goes for us all- is that we have joints that bark, said joints are a great deal happier when we move.
The body’s WD-40 is synovial fluid. And like any engine sitting around doing nothing, that oil don’t lube us. Just saying.
So yes, we have a bit of arthritis, or the injuries we endured have a way of haunting us once in a while. But to sit, and eat shit food, is to guarantee being right about how aging really sucks. Of course it does, when an attitude, negative beliefs, bad habits and buying into the societal bullshit about aging all combine to beat you down before you’re fifty-five.
My aging friends, from yoga maven Vienna De Vega to Joseph Geary to runner Warren Nelson and many more do me the honor of sharing their stories and diet ideas and their successes are part of the online community of folks who disprove, regularly and with great emphasis, that the puerile tantrum of being too old for this shit is, in fact, for infants.
We’re in training for our eights, nineties and beyond. Because none of this gets easier as we age. What we can do is train ourselves so well and with so much love that when tough stuff does happen, and it likely will, we will not only rise to the occasion, but likely end up stronger on the other side.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go crawl around on my very steep roof and clean off the winter’s detritus before the next storm rolls in. It’s a lot more fun than paying someone $500 to do what I can easily do myself,
since I’M NOT TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.